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system. A bigger problem for the federal government, and its commitment to reducing wait times, may be the ideological opposition from the Ontario government to any reforms that include increased private−sector participation. George Smitherman, Mr. Clement's successor as Health Minister, has already stated that the province is not interested in expanding the role of private health care. That seems to set him on a collision course with the Harper government. "Both the Prime Minister and I have indicated that the status quo won't be sustainable in terms of demands on our system," Mr. Clement said in a veiled shot at his former adversary. He is encouraged that a debate over health care has finally broken out in the country. "Different people will disagree as to what's inside the Canada Health Act and what's outside, but that is the framework of the discussion," he said. "We're finally catching up to have a very mature debate about a very important topic −− a debate that has been happening in many other OECD countries." That he is a key player in this debate is a surprise to those who have seen Mr. Clement dust himself off after successive defeats in the Ontario Conservative leadership race, the Ontario election, the federal Conservative leadership race and the 2004 election. By late 2004, he had turned his back on politics, joined a major law practice and was sitting on a couple of corporate boards. He was dragged back into the political game by the Conservative riding association president in Parry Sound−Muskoka, who badgered him until he agreed to accept the nomination to run against then−agriculture minister Andy Mitchell. He ended up the winner by 28 votes, after 11 days and a judicial recount. Mr. Clement tells a story from the campaign trail that sums up his determination to rid himself of the tag of the nice guy who always finished last. In a visit to remote Pointe Au Baril on Georgian Bay in terrible weather, he scaled a driveway along the cliffy road he described as "Mount Olympus" to find two unchained dogs barking maniacally. Since he'd already been bitten three times in his political career, he was nervous but still knocked on the door. The woman of the house was so surprised that someone had bothered to climb all the way to her house, she promised the votes of both her and her husband. "That was repeated day in, day out. We literally went the extra mile, and it encapsulated the campaign," he said. He will likely need every ounce of that tenacity if he is to make progress with the notoriously obdurate provinces. HEALTH CARE Key points in recent announcements by Alberta, Quebec and B.C. that opened the door to more private−sector involvement in health care ALBERTA Ralph Klein, the Premier, announced a 10−point "Third Way" plan to reform health care on Tuesday. − Consider shifting some day surgeries and other treatments to specialized clinics and private surgery facilities. − Allow some enhanced services and treatments to be offered on a priority basis to Albertans with private 29

03/02/2006

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